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Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,898 ratings  ·  167 reviews
No one in the twentieth century had a greater impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping. And no scholar is better qualified than Ezra Vogel to disentangle the contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of China's boldest strategist--the pragmatic, disciplined force behind China's radical economic, technological, and social transformation.
Hardcover, 928 pages
Published September 26th 2011 by Belknap Press
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Continuity as Illusion

I question whether even the Chinese understand China. Perhaps because if they did the result might be mass suicide.

Much better, like the Catholic Church, to re-shape the meaning of words to the needs of the day while keeping the form constant. A sort of rationality can thus be maintained within the most irrational of situations. Then again, perhaps that is exactly what they’re up to: ‘The corrupt pope I’d dead, let us make him a saint.’

Deng's practical repudiation of the M
Zach Zhao
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
No country underwent greater changes in the second half of the twentieth century than China and no man was more responsible for these changes than the subject of this incredible biography. Deng Xiaoping - the architect of modern China - received both the respect and the criticism that he deserved in Vogel's well-researched book. The author skillfully tied the ups and downs of Deng's personal life with those of the country that Deng so deeply loved and by doing so, crafted a piece of work that is ...more
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra Vogel, is a fabulously written biography of one of modern China's most well regarded politicians. Deng Xiaoping was a fascinating character, who put the framework in place that China has used to modernize and bring millions of people out of poverty. He redesigned China's political landscape, radically altered its Marxist economy and put the necessary reforms in place to put China on the path to its current position in the world. Even so, his ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it liked it
It wasn't a easy read. Not because the writer was not talented. In contrast this book provided a fascinating account of Deng's life.

The event leading up to the tragic Tiananmen square was covered in details. The things I learned about Deng from this book: He doesn't like to talk, he's short, he was a oversea student in France, he suffered three purges under Mao, one of his sons was crippled due to Cultural revolution.

Deng was a ultimate political survivor. What ultimate helped Deng was Mao beli
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
When considering the modern history of China and to understand the current, modern China, we need not look at Mao Zedong, but at Deng Xiaoping, the architect of modern China. To understand China is to understand Deng Xiaoping.

In his book, Ezra Vogel gives a detailed account of the life of Deng Xiaoping. He starts with his early life, how he became a communist, his rise and downfalls during Mao Zedong and ultimately his rise after the death of Mao Zedong and the transformation of Mao's Chiona to
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tremendously insightful bio of probably the most important figure of the 20th century in terms of long term impact: Den Xiaoping. Very little about him is part of common knowledge outside China and this a great detailed account of his early life but with most detail devoted to the late Mao era and then his surprising take over of China and his profound strategic redirection of its whole future course. Incredibly well researched and a compelling narrative with lots of analytical insight as to why ...more
Betty Ho
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you are going to read one book about modern China, this is the one. Here's why:

1) To understand China nowadays, one must understand Deng Xiaoping. Perhaps, this is the only book in the market with such detailed account (around 900 pages) of how/ why China was transformed (both in a good and bad way) under Deng’s leadership. However, those who are looking for untold stories of Deng will be disappointed.

2) Most western-authored books about China have their underlying question of “China – what’
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the longest book I've ever read, but recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about China, or who has a general interest in history or business. Personally, it has given me a lens through which I can better interpret modern China.

It paints a balanced and nuanced picture of modern Chinese history, and is a story of extreme pragmatism, making difficult decisions, and masterful political navigation both domestically and internationally.

At a macro level, I think business an
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ezra Vogel wrote a really really long biography of Deng Xiaoping, the second Emperor of the Communist Dynasty. It's massive, packed with detail, enormously interesting, and more than a bit scary. So Deng Xiaoping was one of those elemental badass guys who's a lot of fun to read about, and very scary when you realize that real people had to deal with him and the consequences of his actions. Much like his old boss Mao Zedong, that way, except that where Mao was more of a crazy mad warrior poet dic ...more
Steven Peterson
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful biography of Deng Xiaoping. There is more emphasis on the later as opposed to earlier years of his life. He was a survivor, having been purged twice by Chairman Mao Zedong. But Mao was not to be finished with Deng--keeping him on the backburner in case he needed his skills later on.

The book provides background for his ultimate leadership of China. Deng was "taken down" during the Cultural Revolution, an enormous upheaval of Chinese society orchestrated by Mao. Deng and his family wer
Washington Post
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ezra Vogel’s masterful history of China’s reform era is perhaps the clearest account of the revolution that turned China from a totalitarian backwater into the power it has become today. John Pomfret, a former China correspondent for The Post reviewed this biography for Book World, which made our top 10 list for 2011.

Read Pomfret's review here:
Meihan Liu
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you like On China, you will like this one. Sympathetic, understanding, starry-eyed.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: annual-faborites
"No one in the twentieth century had a greater impact on world history than Deng Xiaoping."

This was my first deep encounter, with Deng Xiaoping. And so it's hard for me to really disentangle this book, which was phenomenal, from the man it is about. At once a hero, a tyrant, a pragmatist and a utopian, Deng Xiaoping had the traits of a great man, and this book was the first time that I really, truly went back to thinking...maybe Carlyle was right. Maybe there really are human beings who transcen
Alex MacMillan
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
My appreciation of this book, one of the best I read this year, is well expressed in the meme format. (broken link)

To me, the only major downside of this book was that after having read Mao: The Unknown Story and Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard, I was surprised that the author downplayed some of the nastier elements of Mao and Deng's CCP. For example, the One-Child Policy initiated by Deng's administration, one of the cruelest and most significant social policies in human history, gets two p
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"As long as it catches mice, it doesn't matter if the cat is black or white." Thus Deng Xiaoping on the centrality of utility in his great goal and achievement: laying the foundation of the opening and modernization of China's economy. This process, a world-historical event whose effects we are just starting to feel, is Deng's lasting legacy to the Chinese people and the world. Professor Vogel traces the life and times of this remarkable leader who survived three purges but always returned to th ...more
Alvin Ting
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is for sure the longest book I have ever read.

As Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew once described Deng Xiaoping as "less than five feet tall, but a giant among men" credits what a great leader he was. This book gives a very insightful biography of his life. One of the brightest and youngest student to be sent to France to work part time and attend French university part time to study. During his journey, he saw white people treating Chinese in their own country, as if they were slaves.
Rob Hocking
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is another incredible book, and I'd like to begin by listing its awards:

Winner of Lionel Gelber Prize
Finalist, Nation Book Critics Circle Awards, Biography
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
A Wall Street Journal Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

with this many awards, it's a good guess that it's going to be a good book.

It's also an incredibly massive book. 714 pages, plus another 150 page
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finished reading this book this morning feeling quite satisfied. Many points of my curiosity about more recent Chinese history had been addressed by Ezra Vogel in ‘Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China’. This well-researched book covers extremely well Chinese leadership from 1969 to 1992. When one thinks of the situation in China in 1969, and compares it to the situation in 1992, there is a natural curiosity about how this remarkable evolution of the governing processes of China took p ...more
Barack Liu
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing

129-Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China-Ezra Vogel-History-2011
2017/07/ 22
2020/05/2 1

——When reading biographies, I often like to ask myself 3 questions. If I live in a different place with him, at his historical node and historical position, what will I do? If I feel that I am not as good as him, then in what areas am I still inadequate, so that I am not as good as him? If I think I can do better than him, is it because I overlooked certain factors that I underestimated the com
Brett C
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This was a very extensive and lengthy account of Deng Xiaoping's transformation of the Peoples' Republic of China. It was full of details and well researched yet was very readable and not boring. This typical biography follows the Paramount Leader from his humble beginnings to his death at 92 years old. The author outlines how his policies (both domestic and international) set the stage for China's success. Under Deng the country outgrew its backwardness and transformed into a major player on th ...more
Tair Kuanyshev
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's not a book only about Deng Xiaoping. History of China, especially in the second part of the 20th century transformed from a poor country to the second biggest economy nowadays. Communist party leadership in China is almost same with Soviet one, which has been ruled our country for 70 years. But several advantages of China and wise and foresight vision of top people in China helped to move ahead the economy except of collapsing as it happenned in Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
The contribut
Tulga G
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In my understanding, Den Xiaoping had made the greatest contribution for the modern China because China's extraordinary rapid growth in technology, education and economy began under his leadership. He had guided China through a difficult transition from a backward, closed, poor, overly rigid socialist nation to a global power with a modernizing economy.
Deng had his own vision and pragmatic approaches about making China rich and powerful, and he reached his goals by building the right fundemantal
Mohamed Ahmed
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
And Finally I Have Finished
That Was the Longest non-fiction Books i have Ever Read, and it took Me long Time to Finish It But Still I Can't Say it Wasn't Worth it.
It Was Sometimes Tiring to Read Because Of the Amount of information in it But it Was Well Written and Dives Deep into the Life of the Man Who Changed China.
as a Person Who Lived in China i Can See What he did with My Own Eyes and I Always Wanted to Get to Know More About The Man I came to admire
Logan Streondj
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really great overview of China from 1978 till the early 90's focused on one of the main decision makers of the time. The appendix also has many mini biographies of other people.

My takeaway was that Deng was a very calm man that made decisions not based on emotion but on what was best for the most people. He was a family man, and read 3 or more hours a day. He liked open water swimming and was really direct and to the point.
Aljoscha Sokolov
This book was an emotional rollercoaster of sorts. It begins in a very detective-like way when it tells about Xiaoping's early years, descends into a somewhat tedious and boring description of inner works of Communist Party of China and than slowly escalates to the perceived outrage of Tiananmen square''s 1989.
Vogel has a weird way of telling the story, the time sorta jumps back and forth 5-10 years every now and than with some microspoilers foreshadowing what will happen 30 pages in the future
Basil Chong
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully written, readable, and in-depth record of Deng Xiaoping's life, struggles, and efforts to survive the Mao Era, and modernise China. Just like any other nation, the patterns of the past illuminate and explain the present, and some of these paragraphs jumped out at me:

"[Deng] then articulated the kind of personal freedoms the public should expect: After 1997, China would still allow people in Hong Kong to criticize the Communist Party but if they should turn their words into action,
Mark Witzke
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you want to understand modern Chinese history and have time to read a 800 page book then this is the one.
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Mankey Dankey
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
deng xiaoping is actually insane mans made china pop off. this book is like the most authoritarian biography of his life written by some harvard prof
Jay Waghray
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An account of the man responsible for modernizing the world’s largest country
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He was born to a Jewish family in 1930 in Delaware, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1950 and received his Ph.D. from the Department of Social Relations in 1958 from Harvard. While attending Ohio Wesleyan, Vogel was a member of the Beta Sigma Tau fraternity (that later merged with the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity). [1]

He then went to Japan for two years to study the Japanese langua

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“If there is one leader to whom most Chinese people express gratitude for improvements in their daily lives, it is Deng Xiaoping. Did any other leader in the twentieth century do more to improve the lives of so many? Did any other twentieth-century leader have such a large and lasting influence on world history?” 3 likes
“it doesn't matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mouse” 1 likes
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